LOUISVILLE — It’s been more than 45 years since a train crossed the span over the Ohio River headed to Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland or St. Louis.
The big four cities that were the main destination for the trains have not received a rail car via the route for decades, and nothing has crossed the span since the tracks were removed from the end of the bridge in 1969 and sold for scrap.
For several more decades, plans had been floated around to turn the former railroad bridge, originally constructed in 1895, into something useful again.
But after an opening and public dedication Thursday, the public can again access the Big Four Bridge over the Ohio River.
“Welcome to what is probably the most anticipated piece of Waterfront Park,” said Waterfront Development Corp. President David Karem. “From the day we started this project, people have been saying, ‘When can I get up on the Big Four bridge.’”
From the turnout that gathered at the foot of the ramp on Louisville’s side of the bridge, Karem was right. Several hundred people turned out to walk, run and bike across the span Thursday morning. However, they still are unable to cross completely over the bridge into Jeffersonville, as the Indiana city’s ramp has not been finished.
“Hopefully in about four months, we’ll be able to fully complete this,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore while addressing the crowd gathered to cross the bridge. He said the ramp is still on track to open in mid-June.
“This will be huge,” Moore said about residents having full access to the bridge and ramps. “The governors of both Indiana and Kentucky saw the economic development that would come from doing this. Everything will grow and expand from this.”
Jeffersonville Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz said the contractor for the Indiana’s ramp, Gohmann Asphalt, is getting a timelime together to pour the concrete on the Indiana side.